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Jan 19, 2008


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You should see them go at it in Stenchville. With half the female student body at least one time pregnant, whom to shun gets complicated. And of course, once the baby is born, all is forgiven.


Shunning is nothing but shaming, and society could use a lot more of it, religious or not. It is what determines acceptable behavior and discourages bad behavior. Nobody wants to be an outcast.

David Wharton

"God's bodykins, man, much better: use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty."

Hamlet II.ii.

Ed Cone

Social and religious groups can and do enforce their own norms -- yet another reason to oppose government regulation of personal behavior, which may impose the norms of one group on everyone else.

Shunning of the kind discussed in the article is interesting in many ways -- in the context of American and Protestant traditions of individual liberty and freedom of conscience, of Christian forgiveness, imposition of hierarchy, etc.


America has imposed it's norms, rooted in western Judeo-Christian values, on its citizens since its founding. It has only been in recent decades that those norms have eroded and we have devolved into a nation of relativists without a unifying culture and value system. History shows that such nations are doomed to fail.


History shows that such nations are doomed to fail.

Help me out here. Which nations have failed because they lacked a unifying culture and value system? And which haven't failed because they do possess unified cultures and values? Sweden seems to have pretty sustainable culture in both regards. And they've been around since 1200 or so. Of course they're nothing but government-controlled socialists, so they probably don't count.

Then there's China . . . now going on 5000 years old. But what do a bunch of commies know about values?

What failed nations do you have in mind as examples of your assertion?

Jeffrey Sykes

James: One of the fundamental concepts that unifies Chinese culture even today is filial piety.

Are you saying that China does not have a unifying culture and value system?


I'm saying (not very well) the opposite. China's unified culture has stood the test of time for sure. But at what cost?

Is survival as a culture or as a nation a Prime Directive? Toward what end? If the end is simply self-preservation, why bother?

You were right to query me. I posted before I finished my thought.


Sweden has been around since 1200? It has never been conquered or occupied? You don't know your history. That's like saying Germany has never failed despite the fact that their entire political system has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times. Just because it's still called "Sweden" doesn't mean it is the same nation that it always has been.

China is ruled by an iron fist, which is what happens when you have a nation separated into interest groups and incompatible cultures. An iron fist is the only way you can keep order in such a society. What kept the Soviet Union together? What kept Czechoslovakia together? Yugoslavia? An iron fist. What happened when the iron fist was removed? The old cultural divisions split off into separate states. Balkanized nations split up into their respective loyalties. We see this playing out in Africa, we saw it in Europe, we see it right now in Iraq among the kurds, the Shia and the Sunni.


Re: the Chinese- they do have a fairly uniform culture and value system that has lasted for a long time. This only proves my point even more. The iron fist is also true, but that seems to be an anomaly in Chinese history. I do believe as illustrated in the examples above that it is true that even a unified country can be ran by an iron fist, it is always true that a balkanized nation will be ran by an iron fist or there will be war. It happens every time.

Jim Rosenberg

Speaking of shunning, I know an Amish joke that is too dirty to tell here, but the punchline is "That's not a barn, but don't stop raising it!" As I said, I wouldn't tell it here.

Billy The Blogging Poet

Spag said, "America has imposed it's norms, rooted in western Judeo-Christian values, on its citizens since its founding. It has only been in recent decades that those norms have eroded and we have devolved into a nation of relativists without a unifying culture and value system. History shows that such nations are doomed to fail."

Dude, did you even read the article? The old woman had been a member of that church for 51 years and was simply demanding that the new preacher follow established Baptist Church Bylaws and he kicks her out? Do conservatives have some sort of problem with Baptists too?

These wacko "Christians" can ban and shun me if they like but if any of them come knocking on my door or get in my face they'll only look like just another bunch of gangsters to me.

And just so everyone will know, while I don't claim to be a Christian (I'm Deist) if more Christians were like Cara Michele Forrest I would find the whole lot of them to be much easier to live with. And you can best believe Cara Michele would never shun anyone. Why? Because she walks the walk and doesn't have to talk the talk.

True Christianity can only be expressed in good deeds and shunning has never been a good deed.

Dave Dobson

Preach it, brother Billy! :-)

It's impossible to ascribe a nation's success or failure to its moral code or lack thereof. It's near-impossible even to define a nation's success or failure, much less to weigh the nation's morality against its historical setting, its leadership, its enemies, its economics, its food supplies, and so on. But perhaps that is the stuff of blog comments.

Anybody who thinks religious ostracism is a great thing needs to read The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible one more time.


Mary was a junior and captain of the cheerleading squad. Joseph was the quarterback from a broken home. The wedding was a hurried affair. Deal with it.

Ed Cone

Sam, America has imposed a lot of things with Bible in hand, including, to choose some dramatic examples, slavery and Prohibition. Values shift over time. I don't need my government to tell me how to live my private life, certainly not in ways based on someone else's view of divine will. I guess I'm just conservative that way.

Values also are not universally agreed upon at a given time. Your statement overlooks a lot of norm-challenging in US history, including 19th Century utopian movements, Mormonism, Jefferson's clip-job on the Bible, etc.

Also, can you point to some examples nations that have failed because of the erosion of their unifying culture and value system? Some historians point to the undermining of traditional Roman culture and values by Christianity as a cause of the fall of the Roman empire, but I tend toward demographic and economic explanations for that, and of course it was not anything approaching a modern nation state in any case.

Also, when in anything approaching modern history was Sweden occupied, and by whom? I know it lost what is now Finland to Russia in the Napoleonic era, but I don't think it's been a war since then. Not that the point was that Sweden had gone undefeated in wars, just curious.


Billy, I wasn't referring to specific fact patterns, but to a larger overall ideal, whether it be religious or not. Many of the social problems we face today are because nearly everything has become acceptable out of fear of judging anybody. A society that stands for nothing will fall for anything.

You cannot hold a nation together when there is no common culture. What you have then isn't a nation, but a geographical place on a map. Nobody will fight to defend a nations values when there are no national values, only personal ones.

Dave, I prefer reality to fiction and individual acts where some may have gone overboard does not justify moral relativism, whether it be based on religion or something else. We are a nation of laws, not men which means that our common morality is not a matter of individual choice. Water down the nation and you water down the laws, and soon you will have chaos and war.

Remember when an honest fight was a fist fight? A person who brought a gun was shunned and seen as a coward- but then it became acceptable and now gangs just kill each other. Killing itself is to be accepted by a large group of people, as is going to prison. Why? It's not politically correct to make a judgment about behavior and personal choices.

Getting pregnant out of wedlock was something that was kept hidden because it wasn't considered socially acceptable. But now, 38% of all kids are born out of wedlock. That's been real good for society hasn't it? Why? Because it's just not right to pass judgment on someone elses choices.

You are making the mistake of assuming this is all about imposition of religious values on others, when it is not. It's about a culture. The idea that a democracy can survive in any culture has been proven false time and again. Yet, somehow we believe that American democracy can absorb all changes. It can't and it won't. A people without a common value system will not unite for long. History has shown this time and time again.

Shaming or shunning is merely a societal way to discredit and isolate those who don't conform to acceptable behavior. The law does the same thing.


Ed, why do you think demographic changes contributed to the fall of Rome? It's because they diluted the Roman culture with tribes who had different values and allegiances. What led to the Dark Ages? The decline of civilized man who let the barbarians in, with all of their tribal feuds and inferior culture.

Your comment about the Bible and slavery could be just as easily said in reference to the Koran, the Torah, or any other religious teaching that co-existed with slavery. Slaveholders weren't claiming that they owned slaves because the Bible told them to.

It's also not about anyone telling you how to live your "private life". We aren't talking about government here, we are talking about private individuals or institutions using shame or shunning to influence behavior.

Mormonism and Jeffersonian values were still western. 19th century utopianism was rejected but it still assumed existence in a western culture. And Sweden still is dominated by western cultural values as it always has been.

This isn't just about religion, it's about western civilization vs. the rest of the world. Ours doesn't work so well for others as we are seeing in Iraq and have seen elsewhere. Similarly, theirs does not work well for us. Yet, we dare not pass judgment within our own borders because it isn't politically correct. We dare not pass judgment on any choice made by someone else except through the law, or we offend. When society stops policing itself, it will decline. It always has. This isn't about sex although some seem to see it in that narrow prism. It's far broader than that. Things like honor are being killed off as we continue excuse the acts of those without it because of political correctness. Kill off honor and you get the gun battle instead of the fist fight.


"Things like honor are being killed off as we continue excuse the acts of those without it because of political correctness."

Jesus called. He said stop typing before he smacks you.


Proving again that complex arguments with many historical and/or factual considerations and philosophical observations should not be made on blogs- particularly in dissent.

I think I'll take the advice of Jesus before I get smacked.

Dave Dobson

Personally, I'd rather people not be having fist fights _or_ gun fights in my town.

If having kids out of wedlock is killing society, maybe you should be pro-gay marriage.

I don't think you'll find anybody thinking gang shootings are a great thing, moral relativism or no. In fact, I'd guess that many such shootings are caused by the shooters following their own sense of honor. An eye for an eye is, in fact, a moral code, just not one that makes for stable societies. Relatively speaking.


Actually, the concept of "honor" used to explicitly include gunfights - ever heard of a duel?

Prior to this century, if you insulted someone's honor, they might challenge you to a duel. If you refused to participate in the gunfight, you were seen as a dishonorable coward.


I'm not sure Sam is completely on the right track in thinking that fear of judging keeps us from defining moral norms in our society, the double standards on treatment of war prisoners is a good example: our expectations for the treatment of US citizens abroad versus what we deem to be acceptable treatment of foreigners in our custody. That's moral relativism justified by some out of fear, to be sure, but not a fear of judging.

Nonetheless, judgment, ostracization and scorn have a useful purpose -- they serve as an outlet for individual moral reactions without necessitating an overly oppressive legal codification of behavior.

Ed Cone

Sam, you jump around like a flea on a hot oven. I'm fine with social and religious groups imposing their norms upon members, I just don't want the government to impose the norms of one group upon everyone. American slaveholders did use the Bible to justify slavery. Cultural and religious norms change over time. Equating barbarian invasions to cultural relativism requires a malleable-to-the-point-of-meaningless definition of cultural relativism. Etc.

Still hoping for an update on the conquest and occupation of Sweden.


1) Nobody is talking about government imposing anything except for you. This topic was about shunning among private groups.
2) Nobody went out and got a slave because the Bible (you know, the Old Testament/Hebrew part, not just the part used by intolerant Christians) told them to. They may have tried to justify it, but that isn't the same as being proactive. The biggest justification was economics, which is a value system unto itself. Simply put, you have not established any unique link between owning slaves and religion.
3) Cultural and religious norms change largely because of outside influences on the culture or religion. A religion that changes isn't really a religion at all, because universal truths don't change. Witness much of the troubles within the Catholic Church after Vatican II and the troubles now between the "American" version and the Roman version. If a religion can change its core beliefs to suit the times, then those beliefs weren't really core and therefore the religion itself is pointless. But that is a different discussion. We aren't talking solely about religion- it can be little things such as speaking the language, discouraging criminal behavior, common courtesy, cleanliness, civic pride, not acting like you just came from a Jerry Springer taping, respect for institutions.
4) Your dismissal of the equation of the barbarian invasions and infiltration of Rome to the present situation in the West is simply ignorant. The less civilized took over, and we entered the Dark Ages.
5) Your argument about Sweden is off topic. Sweden is a European country with a long history of European culture and values. It may be more liberal than most European nations on some social issues, but at its core it's culture remains the same as it has for a long time. The idea that somehow America shouldn't worry about a balkanizing society because Sweden may allow gay marriage or permit the legal consumption of absinthe is ridiculous.

But here is an article you might find interesting about some events in Sweden which seems to support my point about balkanization within a dominant culture entirely.

Now I better be quiet before Jesus smacks me.

cara michele

This thread has really gotten off-topic.

The article that Ed linked to is about church discipline. Learn about the definition, purpose and practice of church discipline (according to Scripture), here and here. (Just a couple of the many good resources out there, like this John MacArthur sermon, which you can order online.)

"...those the LORD loves, He disciplines..." Hebrews 12:6

Ed Cone

CM, you want to talk shunning (and worse), ya gotta kick it old school.


I agree that the thread I initiated was about groups disciplining their own members according to their own norms.

I said that was fine by me, and that it's yet another reason we don't need the government to impose interpretations of cultural norms upon us...

...to which you responded: "America has imposed it's norms, rooted in western Judeo-Christian values, on its citizens since its founding."

Not sure how that squares with you saying "Nobody is talking about government imposing anything except for you," but there ya go.

I didn't have a point about Sweden, that was someone else, I was merely asking you for details to support your apparent belief that Sweden has been occupied within any historically relevant timeframe. You wrote that saying Sweden "has never been conquered or occupied" means "you don't know your history." I like to know my history, so....what are you talking about? The Danish hegemony of the late middle ages? Losing Finland to the Russians in the Napoleonic wars?

Dave Ribar

These are private organizations that can admit and expel members as they wish. They are under (and should not be under) any requirement to admit all comers. So long as the activities don't go beyond this, there isn't a role for government. There would, however, be a role if the activities involved physical or financial harm.

In the article that Ed linked, it sounds like there is considerable mis-use of these activities (though we don't get the full story of any of the cases). Sadly, this is a risk of free association; people can be vindictive jerks.

I doubt that Sam fully stands behind his initial comment that "Shunning is nothing but shaming, and society could use a lot more of it, religious or not. It is what determines acceptable behavior and discourages bad behavior" and his later comment that "When society stops policing itself, it will decline." If he did, he would accept many forms of "political correctness," which are nothing more than society shaming and criticizing those who don't adhere to its standards regarding tolerance and respect.

Sam wants society to shun/shame people that he disagrees with but to mind its own business when his views are outside the mainstream. It's hard to have it both ways.


The relevant passage from Matthew pretty nuanced. There is a brief section in which Christ instructs his followers to treat unrepentant sinners as outcasts; however, the majority of the passage actually contains instructions on forgiveness. Turning someone out without keeping the door open for an apology and an opportunity for forgiveness would not be keeping with Christ's teachings. Churches would be empty places indeed if every sinner were turned away.


Ed, when I referred to "America" I was referring to the culture at large, not government.

Dave said:

"Sam wants society to shun/shame people that he disagrees with but to mind its own business when his views are outside the mainstream. It's hard to have it both ways."

Where is the evidence that I said that?

Also, don't confuse political correctness with common manners. Political correctness is far from being deeply rooted in our history. Rather it is a form of censorship used to prevent the criticism of a given group of people or culture. It teaches that it is shameful to shame or pass judgment or even sustain a national culture. Shaming preserves, political correctness tears down.

Ed Cone

Huh. I guess it was your use of the word "citizens" that threw me ("America has imposed it's [sic] norms, rooted in western Judeo-Christian values, on its citizens since its founding"), as private groups rarely have citizens.

Any word on who might have occupied Sweden?

cara michele

"...the majority of the passage actually contains instructions on forgiveness..."

Dave, agreed. The majority of the Scripture's instructions to the church on discipline focus on glorifying God and healing and restoring believers. But that makes a far less compelling news story... (Sadly.)


When all else fails, send out a rabbit to chase. Does anyone know why Finland is a separate country from Sweden? Hint: It wasn't always that way.

Ed Cone

I've mentioned Russia's establishment of the Duchy of Finland twice in this thread, Sam, but that was not the conquest and occupation of Sweden.

You said anyone who thinks Sweden has not been conquered and occupied is ignorant of history, and I don't want to be ignorant of history, so I'm asking you what you were referring to -- what was the culture-changing conquest and occupation of Sweden, about which the non-ignorant must know?

I have a guess, actually: a lot of people misremember the details and think that Sweden was occupied by the Nazis, but it wasn't, and I'm guessing you misremembered that, too. No biggie.

Jeffrey Sykes

I'm a bit confused by this thread. I thought Sam's original point was that cultures without uniform values were more prone to falling apart, to which Anglico injected China and Sweden as counter examples.

That really didn't make sense, since both are very uniform in terms of ethnicity and core values and have been around for a real long time.

Sam made the misstep of rebutting Anglico with some snark, to which Ed has attached himself with the elan of a Hessian mercenary.

For the record, I think many times some part of Sweden or another has been conquered and occupied and changed hands between the Russ and the Danes, but I don't think the entire nation has been subjugated by a foreign entity.

Take Gotland for instance.

Also, to Anglico's original question of examples of states without uniform culture and value systems that failed, I'd like to submit: any ancient kingdom from the fertile crescent or points east which occupied both Babylon and Jerusalem at the same time, any empire based in Constantinople, Normal England, the Hanseatic League, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, just to name a few.

Soldier on gents.

Ed Cone

Jeff, you point to some empires that were not states in the modern sense but heterogeneous collections of conquered lands, and also make no case for the cause of any state's demise being the lack of cohesive culture and values. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, or hasn't happened, I'm just looking for examples.

The example of the Soviet Union is interesting -- as you say, the common culture and imposed values of that empire failed -- that was a good thing, right?

The values that hold the United States together are written into the Constitution, including its Bill of Rights. Particular interpretations of divine will, or lack thereof, are left to citizens to navigate according to their own conscience. It's worked pretty well -- in some ways, increasingly well -- for a some time now.


"The values that hold the United States together are written into the Constitution"

Those are political values, Ed. We are talking about social values and norms. For some reason you are hellbent on making this about government imposition of values, particularly religious ones, when that assertion hasn't been made by me or anyone else.

I never asserted a "culture changing conquest of Sweden".

Go back, read the part where Anglico says "Sweden seems to have pretty sustainable culture in both regards. And they've been around since 1200 or so. Of course they're nothing but government-controlled socialists, so they probably don't count." And then read my response again about how geography or a name doesn't make a nation, and then please quit being purposefully misleading.

Sykes has the devolution of this thread about right and in the proper context.

Dave Dobson

Sam, can you point to a nation or culture that's failed because it didn't have "a unifying culture and value system?" Lost in the shuffle is that assertion you've made that "History shows that such nations are doomed to fail." I'd like to have an example, not to snipe at it, but to see what you consider consistent values and to see what you consider a failure. If they are all so doomed, there should be multiple examples.

Jeffrey Sykes

I knew there was some question regarding the timeline of the discussion and if we were talking political states or nations in terms of ethnicity.

I went with political entities, and I felt it was understood that ancient empires could never be held together through force because of the never ending parade of revolts from this or that group that was opposed to being ruled by foreign values and culture.

I would also submit that when a Serb nationalist shot Franz Ferdinand that he did so because he didn't share the same culture and values as the Hapsburgs.

The great failure of communism was that it could not erase culture and values. Thus Ukranians and Latvians never felt much more than subjects in a Russian empire by a new name.

One could argue that Yugoslavia, and Bosnia in particular, failed as a state in the end because of no cohesive culture and values.

I'd also point to Rwanda as a state that collapsed because of a lack of shared culture and values.

I'm not trying to argue for or against Sam's position in the top of this thread, just providing some context for the debate at hand.

I agree that the American experience is a healthy one and should continue as is.

As a side note, if that Giants kicker had missed a field goal for the third time I was going to destroy my tv because of a lack of common value for his kicking ability.

Ed Cone

Jeff, it's a big stretch to say lack of shared values led to the assassination of the archduke, unless you define "I wish my historically distinct country was not part of your empire" as a cultural values issue...also, modern Yugoslavia was a heterogeneous construct, not a unitary state, etc.

Marx definitely missed something important about the persistence of religion and culture. Interesting to see that countries built from disparate parts -- the former Czechoslovakia, for example, and now Belgium -- can fall apart after long existence. But again, were they "natural" countries in the first place? The book I'm reading now about France -- referenced above in the link about changing cultural values -- shows how even that highly successful country is a fairly recent amalgamation of different cultures, languages, and tribes.

In the end, the US is different from old world countries and empires in important ways, including a tradition of pluralism as old as the country itself, and I'm not finding these comparisons especially revealing. That's not to say the US doesn't face challenges around language and culture and values, of course.

Sam, the Constitution represents a shared value system that goes beyond politics to the core of the American experience. A great thing about the Constitution is that it leaves the cultural and religious values to the people -- and yes, we agree that the people are free to shun as they please, although that freedom was not the question that suggested itself to my mind when reading the original article.

As for Sweden, beyond the simple pleasure of yanking your chain, one of the conservative beliefs to which I adhere is that objective reality exists. You made an inaccurate statement about European history and garnished it by saying anyone who thought otherwise was ignorant. As with your recent assertion that Hillary Clinton "won't say what denomination she is" (her Methodist faith has been widely reported and analyzed), a minute on The Google would have been a good investment.

Speaking of shared cultural values -- I would guess most Americans were rooting for the Packers and Favre, but the Jints gave the Pats hell last time and maybe we'll get a decent Super Bowl out of this.


The cases mentioned in the article seem to be more about church politicing and infighting than in keeping cultural norms. The case the article focused on, Mrs. Caskey, her sin was an attempt to keep the church operating according to its by-laws, and the pastor could have been covering something up, or operating the finances inappropriately. The passage that troubled me is

"A lot of times, flocks aren't willing to submit or be obedient to God," he said in an interview before a Sunday evening service. "If somebody is not willing to be helped, they forfeit their membership."
Obedience to God is different than deference to a pastor. I can think of a couple situations where lay people did not hold a hot enough fire to their church leadership's feet. I could never imagine a church I attended refusing entry to anyone who was not disturbing the mass. I've read that there are a few large churches who are having their nonprofit status investigated because of questionable finances. I don't see how someone questioning how church monies get used are being disobedient to God, and I think making sure that donations go to worthy causes is an important part of giving.

Dave Ribar


Just a caution that we may not be getting the whole story. A story that describes an elderly woman being pulled out of her pew by the police called in by a vindictive and overbearing pastor is pretty compelling. A story that describes her flaws or mis-steps (if there were any) would be less compelling.


Are you saying that the story is inaccurate or that her 'shunning' is not representative? The offense was quoted to be: spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord". Someone bringing to light improper behavior in a church could certainly be guilty of spreading a spirit of discord, but perhaps that discord is needed.

Dave Ribar


I'm saying that the story may be incomplete. From the little information available on-line (the pastor and continuing church members aren't commenting), it sounds like a young pastor who may be controlling and unbalanced. However, Ms. Caskey may have also escalated the situation by bringing a lawyer into the initial disagreement over the governance of Allen Baptist. She certainly escalated things after returning to the church after being arrested for trespassing. In any case, we only know the particulars that the reporter and editor have shared with us.

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